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Housing Benefit Size Criteria & The Benefit 'CAP'

On 16 February 2011 the Governments new Welfare Reform Bill was introduced to Parliament. The Bill detailed the biggest change to the welfare system for over 60 years. 


The Government’s aim is to make the benefits and tax credits systems fairer and simpler by:


  •  Creating the right incentives to get more people into work by ensuring work always pays
  •  Protecting the most vulnerable in our society 
  •  Delivering fairness to those claiming benefit and to the taxpayer.


The main elements of the Bill are:


  • The introduction of Universal Credit to provide a single streamlined benefit that will ensure work always pays.
  • A stronger approach to reducing fraud and error with tougher penalties for the most serious offences.
  • A new claimant commitment showing clearly what is expected of claimants while giving protection to those with the greatest needs.
  • Reforms to Disability Living Allowance, through the introduction of the Personal Independence Payment to meet the needs of disabled people today.
  • Creating a fairer approach to Housing Benefit by capping the total amount of benefit that can be claimed.
  • Introducing new size criteria rules for new and existing working-age claimants living in the social rented sector.
  • Driving out abuse of the Social Fund system by giving greater power to local authorities.
  • Reforming Employment and Support Allowance to make the benefit fairer and to ensure that help goes to those with the greatest need.
  • Changes to support a new system of child support which puts the interest of the child first.
  • Localisation of Council Tax.



 Housing Benefit Size Criteria

From 1 April 2013, a size criteria applies in the social rented sector (eg council and housing association properties). This means that people living in houses larger than they need (under-occupiers) will have to move to somewhere smaller or make up the difference in rent because their Housing Benefit will be reduced:


  • by 14% of the rent charged if you under-occupy by one bedroom
  • by 25% of the rent charged if you under-occupy by two or more bedrooms


        This is only for working-age people. The size criteria is as follows:-

  • 1 bedroom for each adult or adult couple, plus
  • 1 bedroom for every 2 children under the age of 10 (regardless of gender)
  • 1 bedroom for every 2 children under the age of 16 if they are the same gender
  • 1 bedroom for any other child
  • 1 bedroom for a non-resident carer if providing care for the tenant, their partner, non-dependant adult or child
  • 1 bedroom for a disabled child under 16, or a couple, who are unable to share a bedroom overnight because of their disability
  • 1 bedroom for a foster child (only 1 bedroom is allowed regardless of the number or sex of the children)



 The Benefit Cap

From 1 April 2013, a limit was put on the total amount of benefit that most people aged 16 to 64 can get. This is called the benefit cap. Changes to the Benefit Cap levels came in to force from 7/11/2016.


If you’re affected, your Housing Benefit will go down to make sure that the total amount of benefit you get isn’t more than the cap level. If you’re already getting benefits and could be affected by the cap you’ll be contacted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP who will let you know what will happen to your benefits). If you’realready seeing a Job Centre Plus adviser, they will continue to help you look for work and get the skills you may need for a job.


The cap will apply to the total amount that the people in your household get from the following benefits:-


The level of the cap for those living outside a Greater London Borough is currently:


  • £384.62 per week (£20,000 a year) if you’re in a couple, whether your children live with you or not
  • £384.62 per week (£20,000 a year) if you’re single and your children live with you
  • £257.69 per week (£13,400 a year) if you’re single and you don’t have children, or your children don’t live with you


You won’t be affected by the benefit cap if you qualify for


  Working Tax Credit or if you get any of the following benefits:


NOTE: The Welfare Reform and Work Act (2016)  introduces some changes to the benefit cap. These changes, which will take effect in autumn 2016, include changes to the benefit cap levels to £23,000 a year for couples with or without children and lone parents and £15,410 for single people without children in Greater London, and £20,000 and £13,400 respectively for those groups elsewhere in Great Britain. They also include additional exemptions for recipients of Guardian’s Allowance, Carer’s Allowance and Universal Credit claimants who receive payments towards carer’s costs.


How claimants can find out more:

- find out more information and use our online calculator to see how their benefit may be affected by visiting www.Gov.UK/benefit-cap


- find out more about the benefits they may be able to claim, or the benefits which exempt them from benefit cap by visiting www.Gov.UK/benefits-adviser


- call our helplines to find out general information about the changes, and about the help we can give them, on the following numbers:


Benefit cap helpline Telephone: 0345 605 7064; Textphone: 0345 608 8551


UC Service Centre helpline Telephone: 0345 6000 723; Textphone: 0345 6000 743


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